is a logical, systematic process of focusing, calming and
understanding the movement of the mind. As such, meditation
does not require belief in any particular religionnor
does it preclude any such beliefs. The Buddhist, the Christian
and the atheist can each practice meditation with equal success.
is not just relaxing, rather meditation is trying to develop a highly
concentrated and clear state of mind which one can use for clear
analysis, and which can be blissful to be in. This blissful
state is called "Shamatha" in Sanskrit (see below).
Once we have reached this very advanced state of mind, we can
learn what we want very quickly, including transforming our
mind and developing deep wisdom and insight. Not only our conscious
thoughts can be brought under control, also our emotions and
unconsciousness, as they are all based on concepts which can
be changed.Please realise that these pages just deal with Buddhist
meditation, some are found exclusively in Tibetan Buddhism.
The Tibetan word for meditation, "gom" can actually
be translated as familiarising, habituating. In short, it means
to familiarise with a positive state of mind, which actually
refers to training the mind.
WITH THE MIND
meditation, we try to develop wisdom, learn to observe our own
mind, decrease negative mind states and develop positive mind
states. To develop wisdom and insight, we need a calm, clear
and concentrated mind. To observe our own mind, we need to develop
a kind of inner "spy" - a part of our attention that
checks our state of mind. To decrease negative mind states we
need to understand where they come from and transform them into
positive energy with the wisdom developed from observing our
own mind. To develop positive mind states, we need to focus
away from selfishness and again develop wisdom by observing
our own mind.
As you may realise from the above, we should actually become
our own psychologist, or like the title of a booklet by Lama
Yeshe which is called: "Becoming Your Own Therapist".
order to find the right state of mind for meditation, we need
concentration instead of being scattered, and clarity of mind
instead of dullness. We need to observe our own thoughts and
mind states instead of getting lost in emotions or becoming
prejudiced. We need to be honest towards ourselves instead of
fooling ourselves and walk away from unpleasant problems. Furthermore,
we need to be patient (one does not become a meditation master
over night), generate self-acceptance, confidence and enthusiasm
to make the mind peaceful.
All these factors need to be in balance: we need to be somewhat
relaxed as well as concentrated, we need to avoid both sleepiness
quote from the late Lama Yeshe:
meditators emphasise too much on concentration: if you are squeezing,
then there is no control of anger if someone disturbs you. The
beauty of real meditation is, that even if you are disturbed,
you can allow space and time for this."
misunderstanding about meditation is that we should stop thinking.
I assume this comes from the emphasis in many Zen schools to
"stop thinking" - which I understand to mean that
one cannot realise or experience emptiness when being only caught
up in conceptual thoughts about it. That would be similar to
trying to experience a beautiful sunset while discussing with
yourself, "Is it the colour of the clouds that make it
beautiful, or is it the quietness; why does the sun turn red
Allan Wallace writes in Tibetan Buddhism from the Ground Up:
point of Buddhist meditation is not to stop thinking, for ...
cultivation of insight clearly requires intelligent use of thought
and discrimination. What needs to be stopped is conceptualisation
that is compulsive, mechanical and unintelligent, that is, activity
that is always fatiguing, usually pointless, and at times seriously
as the late Ajahn Chah:
to be mindful, and let things take their natural course. Then
your mind will become still in any surroundings, like a clear
forest pool. All kinds of wonderful, rare animals will come
to drink at the pool, and you will clearly see the nature of
all things. But you will be still. This is the happiness of
can we change our mind just like that? His Holiness the Dalai
Lama explains in 'An Open Heart: Practicing Compassion in Everyday
not physical, our states of mind also come about by causes and
conditions, much the way things in the physical world do. It
is therefore important to develop familiarity with the mechanics
of causation. The substantial cause of our present state of
mind is the previous moment of mind. Thus, each moment of consciousness
serves as the substantial cause of our subsequent awareness.
The stimuli experienced by us, visual forms we enjoy or memories
we a react to, are the cooperative conditions that give our
state of mind its character. As with matter, by controlling
the conditions, we affect the product: our mind. Meditation
should be a skillful method of doing just this, applying particular
conditions to our minds in order to bring about the desired
effect, a more virtuous mind."
definition of shamatha is: the ability to hold our minds on
the object of meditation with clarity and stability for as long
as we wish, conjoined with mental and physical pliancy. It is
also called single pointed concentration.
With shamatha, the mind becomes extremely flexible and drastically
reduces the power of disturbing attitudes, gross anger, attachment,
jealousy etc. do not arise.
learning the way should first empty and quiet their minds. This
is because the mind must be empty before it can mystically understand
the subtle principle. If the mind is not emptied, it is like
a lamp in the wind, or like turbulent water, how can it reflect
the myriad forms?"
Yuan-hsien (1618-1697) - Excerpted from "The Teaching of
Zen" edited by Thomas Cleary
to achieve full-blown calm abiding:
Agreeable place: easy to obtain food without wrong livelihood,
powerful place (blessed by holy persons) and quiet, not disease-ridden,
proper companions and one should have heard and studied the
2. Have few desires in terms of food, clothes etc.
3. Knowing satisfaction: acceptance of what you haven and who
4. Pure ethics: try to prevent any negative actions.
5. Forsaking commotion/excitement: few purposes outside meditation,
reduce any other activities
6. Abandoning thoughts of desire and lust: contemplating faults
of desire and impermanence.
you may understand from the above, the achievement of shamatha
is not a small task. It is said that if one is completely focused
on the practice in solitary retreat, some people can achieve
it in 6 months. There are not many people around who can claim
to have mastered shamatha. To seriously engage in this practice,
the advice of a teacher should be sought, and several good books
have appeared on the subject.
warning from Venerable Ajahn Chah (Pra Bhodinyana Thera):
is capable of bringing much harm or much benefit to the meditator,
you can't say it brings only one or the other. For one who has
no wisdom it is harmful, but for one who has wisdom it can bring
real benefit, it can lead him to Insight.
That which can be most harmful to the meditator is Absorption
Samadhi (Jhana), the samadhi with deep, sustained calm. This
samadhi brings great peace. Where there is peace, there is happiness.
When there is happiness, attachment and clinging to that happiness
arise. The meditator doesn't want to contemplate anything else,
he just wants to indulge in that pleasant feeling. When we have
been practicing for a long time we may become adept at entering
this samadhi very quickly. As soon as we start to note our meditation
object, the mind enters calm, and we don't want to come out
to investigate anything. We just get stuck on that happiness.
This is a danger to one who is practicing meditation.
must use Upacara Samadhi. Here, we enter calm and then, when
the mind is sufficiently calm, we come out and look at outer
activity. Looking at the outside with a calm mind gives rise
to wisdom. This is hard to understand, because it's almost like
ordinary thinking and imagining. When thinking is there, we
may think the mind isn't peaceful, but actually that thinking
is taking place within the calm. There is contemplation but
it doesn't disturb the calm. We may bring thinking up in order
to contemplate it. Here we take up the thinking to investigate
it, it's not that we are aimlessly thinking to investigate it,
it's not that we are aimlessly thinking or guessing away; it's
something that arises from a peaceful mind. This is called "awareness
within calm and calm within awareness." If it's simply
ordinary thinking and imagining, the mind won't be peaceful,
it will be disturbed. But I am not talking about ordinary thinking,
this is a feeling that arises from the peaceful mind. It's called
"contemplation." Wisdom is born right here."
Situ Rinpoche, from 'The Third Karmapa's Mahamudra Prayer':
waves of gross and subtle thoughts subside in their own place.
The stream of mind rests unmoved in itself.
May we be free from the stains of agitation, stupor, and dullness,
And establish a still ocean of calm abiding'
prayer describes the ideal state of calm abiding. In this state
all gross and subtle thoughts are naturally pacified, which
is to say that they are temporarily calmed down. When the mind
is free from any disturbing thoughts, it becomes stable and
abides in this state without there being any need for deliberate
effort. In this situation two things can happen. The first is
agitation (Tib. 'jing wa'). This refers to an extroverted state
in which the mind, figuratively speaking, falls into a gaze,
in which it is very fascinated or 'spaced out'. The second consists
of two types of an extremely introverted state of mind, stupor
and dullness (Tib. 'mug pa' and 'nyog pa'). These are almost
the same, though dullness is slightly more active, while under
the influence of stupor one might
easily fall asleep. It is a state of real blankness, while dullness
is a state of extreme cloudiness that can be compared to water
polluted by so much dirt that one cannot see through it."
is defined as: the correct discernment of the object of meditation,
coupled with single-pointed concentration: a combination of
analytical meditation and calm abiding. To develop it, we need
to learn to analyse the meditation object. But not only conceptual;
it is a more fully understanding the object. Our conceptual
understanding will eventually turn into direct, non-conceptual
As the Buddha said:
fire arises from two pieces of wood rubbed together, so does
analytical wisdom arise from the conceptual state. And just
like the fire increases and burns away all the wood, analytical
wisdom increases and burns away all conceptual states."
Types of analytical meditation are distinguished:
To transform our attitude. For example, by understanding the
problems and misunderstanding of anger, we can reduce and ultimately
2. Analysis of the meditation object to understand and perceive
doing analytical meditation, never take for granted the first
quick answer that comes up. When you ask "why, how and
when" again regarding your initial answers, you may discover
the "real", underlying answers. Also, the answers
should not only come just from the intellect, also check your
feelings and emotions, as long as you don't get caught up in
example: in death meditation you can think of death. When you
ask, "Will I die?" the immediate answer will be "Yes",
and it seems you are finished. But take some time to check with
yourself if you really live your life consciously in the realisation
that you can die any minute. Asking yourself, "How would
it feel to die right now?" will get you into another level
of the mind. Ask, "How will I die?" and "How
will I feel?" and the simple question about death becomes
intensely acute and serious.
Then ask for example, "Why will I die?" and you may
answer, "Negative karma". But rather than giving just
the textbook answers, check how these things feel: "What
is negative karma really? How does negative karma feel? Do I
really believe in karma, and do I act that way?" etc.
Analytical meditation is not just about giving the instant logical
answers from the books, but verifying what your OWN answers
are. For me personally, often the real stuff appears to be stowed
away in emotions and is hiding behind the logical straightforward
doing the analysis, one should single-pointedly focus on the
conclusion made in the end, without analysis, just "look
at the conclusion". This really works to let your own conclusions
"sink in", and make them part of your understanding
example using above meditation, you may conclude that you are
really not so sure whether you believe in karma. The conclusion
may well be something like: "I have to check about karma
more" or "I need to check why I often don't act as
if I believe in karma". Personally, this is the kind of
stuff that makes me more sensitive and aware about my state
of mind, and it stimulates to meditate more on the subjects
of philosophy and psychology.